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Archive for the ‘Caucasian (Armenian & Georgian)’ Category

It was very hard to get a photo of this dish, mainly due to the fact that it smelt and tasted so fantastically good that I was too busy devouring it to remember to photograph it! This is probably the national dish of Armenia – meat marinated and barbequed, served with delicious crispy potatoes, onion rings and bread. It’s incredibly simple and incredibly good. While I still can’t quite capture the flavour of the khorovatz we ate in Yerevan and Gyumri, this is as close as I’ve come and it really is excellent. The meat used is pork or lamb, preferably on the bone and with a little fat. The below marinade recipe is for 8 pork or lamb chops, which will serve 4 people at the most – don’t underestimate just how good this is. The most important part of the cooking process is the wood fire (mixed with some heat beads is ok); nothing else will truly impart the proper khorovatz flavour.

8 chops, pork or lamb

2 onions, minced finely in a food processor

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp hot paprika

* 1 tsp svaneti salt (optional – only available if you’ve just come back from Georgia! Or if you ask me nicely.)

20-30 basil leaves, roughly torn

Mix onion, seasonings and basil leaves together in a large bowl; add the chops and rub the mix all over them. Marinade for at least 24 hours, 48 if you can, and re-rub the meat at least once during this time.

Cook over a wood-fired barbeque until done – you want plenty of charring on the outside. Serve with potatoes that have been par-boiled, sliced and tossed in any remaining marinade with a little oil and then roasted til browned and yummy. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and ta da! Serve with salad, thinly sliced red onion and bread and you have a killer bbq meal.

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My name is Beck, and I am a lahmajo addict. As I write this, it has been 2 hours 10 minutes since my last lahmajo and therefore 21 hours 50 minutes until my next lahmajo. I am shamelessly, hopelessly hooked; I cannot stop and I don’t even want to. Lahmajo (also spelled lahmajoun, lahmacun and many other options in English) is a very healthy and monumentally tasty ‘pizza’ of middle eastern origin – it is essentially minced lamb, tomato and spices spread thinly and cooked on flatbread which is then then folded or rolled up and devoured at will. Devotees will argue as to which nationality can claim this for their own; my experience with this delectable little devil has been in Armenia, and therefore that is the flavour I am trying to reproduce.

And look! It's all done in a food processor! Minimal washing up!

While I’m sure that there are great Armenian recipes out there for lahmajo on the internet they are not easy to find in English – those I’ve come across are seriously lacking in flavour compared to the goodies I happily gorged myself on in Yerevan and Gyumri. (If anyone knows the owner/chef of Pizza Jazz in Gyumri, please promise them anything on my behalf to get their recipe. It seriously rocked and led to me ordering far more than originally planned. Thank you.) So I have combined elements from lots of different recipes, added a few of my own and come up with the following topping recipe. As far as the base goes, you can make your own (there are plenty of recipes for this out there), use pita bread or my personal preference, tortillas. I make a batch of these on the weekend, wrap them up 2 together and freeze them and then take them out the day I want to eat them (ie. every day) and reheat in the microwave for 40 seconds at work for lunch. It’s not as good as fresh out of the oven but it’s still damn tasty and will have everyone in the vicinity demanding what that amazing smell is. If there’s anything better than eating a great lunch at work, it’s making people around you miserable with jealousy…

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I had the great pleasure and privilege of spending nearly three weeks in the wonderful nation of Armenia (with a brief but notable side trip to Georgia) in the new year – meeting amazing people, seeing amazing sights and of course devouring vast quantities of amazing food, sometimes to the point of physical pain and possible regurgitation. The culinary highlights for me were the tasty discovery of four dishes I had heard about but not previously eaten: khorovatz (Armenian bbq), lahmajo (Armenian pizza), khinkali (Georgian dumplings) and khatchapuri (Georgian cheese pie). Since returning to Melbourne and the tragic news that the only Armenian restaurant in my state has now closed – shame, Cafe Armenia! Shame! – I have no choice but to try to figure out how to reproduce all this wondrous deliciousness at home. Luckily I met some foodie friends to help me out, and today’s recipe is courtesy of the lovely Tamara from Georgia who has been generous enough to share her khatchapuri secrets with me. And I can tell you (because I’ve looked!) that there is no recipe like this out there on the net in English at least. It’s extremely easy to make, can have a variety of fillings and tastes sensational; I’ve made this several times since returning and it’s been a hit on every occasion.

One of my favourite memories from our travels would have to be Tamara demonstrating in a restaurant in Tbilisi just how to fold khatchapuri, using a napkin to illustrate the dough and a mobile phone for the filling. While her way was certainly effective, I think I prefer a filling of mashed potatoes, cheese, parsley and spices to a Nokia…

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